Review: Meet the Regulars

hqdefaultRecap: More so than any other city in the United States, New York City is the one that best represents the “melting pot” that is America. Each of the city’s five boroughs has its own personality, while still being diverse. But likely the borough that has changed the most in recent years is Brooklyn. Brooklyn has gentrified. What used to be a predominantly older-skewed borough now appeals to younger people. Where rent used to remain low, it now skyrockets. Things are changing in Brooklyn. But many of the people who have always live there don’t plan on leaving, and the people who move in don’t want to either.

Meet the Regulars explores all of these people — young, old, male, female, black, white, Hispanic, tattooed, clean-cut, artists and corporate workers. The book profiles random people — including some celebrities, actors, comedians and radio hosts you may know —  who live in, work in or just simply frequent Brooklyn and the many restaurants, shops, salons, yoga studios, clubs, bars, and even bowling alleys where they are regulars.

Each of these interviews is taken from an interview series on the New York magazine partner blog Bedford + Bowery. But the book is made cohesive with intermittent essays from the author about the changing face of Brooklyn, the gentrification within the borough and the technology-driven force of millennials.

AnalysisMeet the Regulars is the perfect portrayal of everything Brooklyn and New York City represent: diversity — diversity in its people, diversity in its culture, diversity in its businesses. The book reads more like a coffee table book, since it includes many photos of its interview subjects and the places where they’re “regulars.” By including brief interviews with the people, it’s easy to fly through.

And while you might think this book is all about the cool places in  Brooklyn — and okay, it kind of is — it also uses these places to tell the stories of Brooklyn. Inevitably, when people start talking about the borough and the changes they’ve seen there, they then start talking about the history of the borough. I know more about Brooklyn and its people now than I ever did before, and I’ve spent a good amount of time in Brooklyn.

Meet the Regulars serves as a coffee table book, a social studies book, a compilation of profiles and in some sense, a compilation of reviews. Thanks to the awesome map and index in the back, there are a lot of new places in Brooklyn I want to visit. And a lot more people I want to meet.

Get Meet the Regulars now in hardcover for $13.85. 

Or get it on your Kindle for $11.99.

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‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ ‘Committed’ Author Separates from Husband

liz_03Normally, I wouldn’t blog about gossip-related items, but in this case, it’s the subject of Elizabeth Gilbert’s books. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love and Committed is separating from her husband. Her husband is the man she met on her trip to Bali and the same man she wrote about and called “Felipe” in her memoir.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the author posted about the separation on Facebook, explaining “Because I have shared details of my private life with you all so intimately over the years, I feel the need to share with you this recent change in my personal life…He has been my dear companion for over 12 years, and they have been wonderful years. Our split is very amicable. Our reasons are very personal.”

Much of Committed was about her fascination with marriage and discussion about why we, as modern-day Americans, make such a big deal out of getting married. Her reasons for marrying weren’t want and desire. She married because of obligation. So maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she and her husband are separating. After all, is that what she really wanted to begin with?

It’s hard to know the answer to that. And it’s hard to write about this and her, knowing that she’s not, in fact, a character, but a real person. All I have to say is I commend her for her openness and honesty. I respect that she announced it and agree that because she wrote about her love and marriage to “Felipe,” it’s only fair she acknowledge her separation from him as well. Their story may be over, but hopefully her stories are not.

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Review: Sunsets of Tulum

sunsets-of-tulumRecap: A near-death experience at work encourages Reed Haflinger to live his life to the fullest, and that includes repairing his relationship with his wife. They head to Mexico for a spontaneous vacation, but after a few days of fighting, Reed’s wife flies back to their home in Boston, leaving Reed to enjoy the rest of his romantic getaway. The romance winds up sparking between Reed and someone else.

Clione is half Reed’s age, but observant and wise beyond her years. The two connect on a level deeper than Reed ever reached with his life. Not to mention their sexual chemistry is off the charts. Reed extends his trip, and the two of them spend their time away from the resort in Cancun where Reed had been staying with his wife and instead explore Tulum, Mexico together. Reed realizes this is the great love he’s always been searching for and decides to end his marriage. But when he receives devastating news from home, he must truly decide if he’s ready to make the change he’s been considering.

AnalysisSunsets of Tulum is a romantic travel novel that explores living your life to the fullest and finding yourself, even if it happens a little later than planned. At the age of 38, Reed seems to experience what most men experience during a mid-life crisis, but he has bravery to actually take the plunge and make changes that many other men aren’t necessarily willing to make. I found it to be a bit unrealistic. It’s hard for me to imagine that someone would actually opt to end a ten-year marriage for a 21-year-old girl who he met a week ago. But I respect the character’s ballsiness in doing it anyway, despite how it looks to other people.

The book uses heavy-handed metaphors to tell the story. For example, Reed is afraid of water, and it’s his new girlfriend who gets him in the water and forces him to face his fears. With water symbolizing change and his obsessive fear of water established early on, there’s a good amount of foreshadowing happening in the water scenes, making it a bit overstated and predictable.

That said, Tulum is extremely sexy in detail I hadn’t expected but certainly can’t complain about, and I think the sex scenes helped to show the feeling of desire, excitement and ecstasy that so many people crave on vacations.

MVP: Reed. He was the most complicated character in the story, who had a very clear arc in growth and development. Though I initially found him unlikable for cheating on his wife, I understood why he did what he did. He later redeems himself, and comes away from it seeking and starting a new life most of us could only dream of.

Get Sunset of Tulum in paperback for $14.99. 

Or get it on your Kindle for $4.99.

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Movie vs. Book: Me Before You

me before youWhen Louisa Clark loses her job as a waitress, she is struggling to figure out what to do next. Her family relies on her and the money she brings in to support them, especially since her father’s been out of work. She goes through a ton of crazy jobs before finally landing a six-month deal as a caregiver for a paraplegic man named Will. Will is a bitter, condescending man who was paralyzed from the neck down in a crash two years earlier. Prior to that, he was an active, adventurous, wealthy man who had want for nothing. Within a few days, Louisa learns she’s mostly been hired to cheer Will up — a seemingly impossible task.

After several months and finally making some headway in terms of cheering up Will, Louisa learns there’s a reason she’s only been signed to a six-month contract. Will doesn’t think his life is worth living, and she makes it her mission to prove otherwise — to show him how he can live a fulfilled life despite his disability. Louisa has a boyfriend, but they eventually break up as her feelings for Will become stronger. But will her plans for travel and deep love for Will be enough to convince him to stay alive?

Me Before You is a beautiful romance novel that also deals with the issues of the disabled, doctor-assisted suicide and learning to live life to the fullest. While Louisa is busy trying to show Will how grand life he can be, he’s the one to actually do that for her — the story turning around on itself. It’s a truly moving book, and the movie is just as emotional and effective.

Sam Claflin as Will and Emilia Clarke as Louisa have ridiculous on-screen chemistry, and while Emilia Clarke’s acting at the beginning of the movie includes some serious over-acting, she grows on you as the movie continues. In the movie, her character is also more perky, quirky and silly than she is the book. Having read the book before seeing the movie, I initially found that kind of personality off-putting, but that, also, grew on me. I realized that where the book could sometimes be incredibly dark, the movie lightened things up a bit. The movie also does a good job of excluding the some of the other darker undertones that both weren’t necessary and didn’t really seem to fit in with the novel anyway — like Louisa’s dark past and the secrets held between Will’s parents. The movie also ends the relationship between Louisa and her boyfriend a little earlier — something for which I was grateful, considering her boyfriend is horrible.

The movie Me Before You is certainly this year’s version of The Fault in Our Stars, and luckily for viewers and readers both the book and movie live up to the romantic, tear-inducing story we all need every once in a while.

Get Me Before You in paperback for $6.73.

Or on your Kindle for $9.99.

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Review: The Tumbling Turner Sisters

Screenshot 2016-05-22 at 11.56.59 AMRecap: Winnie and Gert come from an already poor family, but they’re about to be poorer. Thanks to their father’s drunken mishap and hand injury, he can no longer work in the factory where he’s employed, and now they, their mother, their two other sisters and baby nephew must find a way to keep going and pay the rent. Their older sister, Nell is too busy caring for her baby and too depressed over the loss of her husband to help. Their younger sister is still in school. But their mother is all too resilient to let the family fall apart. It’s the early 1900s. The solution is easy. Become a travelling vaudeville act. And that’s exactly what the sisters do.

They practice their tumbling and find an agent who books them gigs throughout Upstate New York. Along the way, Winnie meets a wonderful man who, unfortunately for her mother and her bias, is an Italian immigrant from Boston. His younger sister and Winnie’s younger sister become close friends as well. But Gert, the voluptuous older sister, falls for a black man, a fabulous tap dancer who performs in shows with them. Their love is kept secret for fear they would get in trouble. But a racially-induced misunderstanding eventually forces him to leave the show and escape, leaving Gert in shambles.

And as The Tumbling Turner Sisters continue travelling, adding things to their act and becoming bigger and better, it becomes harder or even impossible for Winnie and Gert to keep in touch with the men they love. They are finally reaching a state of comfort financially and emotionally until one tragic event changes everything. The girls start to realize vaudeville may not be forever, but where will The Tumbling Turner Sisters turn next?

Analysis: A story about four sisters growing up, working together, encouraging each other and trying to find their way in life, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is like a vaudevillian version of Little Women — a correlation made just a little too obvious with the author’s mention of the American classic within her own novel, as Winnie attempts to read Little Women, but is bored with it.

I suppose by contrast, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is more exciting than Little Women (though I will always love that book), and the narration helps with that. Each chapter goes back and forth between narration by Gert and Winnie, clearly the strongest characters in the novel and women in the family, offering differing perspectives on their lives, the theater and the world between 1918 and 1920.

Author Juliette Fay also does such an excellent job of seamlessly including historical aspects of the early 1900s America with her descriptions of vaudeville life that it helps to touch on the social issues of the novel, including  women’s role in society, racism and the economy. The setting is just as big a character as any, making it glaringly obvious just how far we’ve come since then (Women can vote! And go to college!) and yet, how little has changed in terms of racism. Her writing really puts things in perspective.

MVP: Winnie and Gert. Though initially described as sisters who couldn’t be more different — Winnie, the brainy type who wants to be a nurse and vote for the next President  and Gert, the Becky-with-the-Good-Hair of the novel who is beautiful and always has a suitor — they are also the most determined and focused on their goals and their family.

Get The Tumbling Turner Sisters in hardcover for $16.16.

Or on your Kindle for $12.99.

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New Duology Coming from Veronica Roth

carvethemarkNow that the Divergent series has concluded and the movies are almost complete, bestselling author Veronica Roth is set to release a new series.

According to Entertainment Weekly, this one is a duology. Carve the Mark is due to be released January 17, 2017. The first book in the duology, Carve centers around a galaxy where “some are favored by fate [and] everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future.” Sound familiar? Yes, it sounds very similar to the faction system of the Divergent books. Especially the further explanation that the two main characters’ gifts “make them vulnerable to others’ control.”

Since the final book in the Divergent series (Allegiant) is often regarded as the worst of the series, I wonder if Roth’s writing of a similarly themed series might be her way of redeeming herself, since here, she’d be able to write a more satisfying ending than that of the Divergent series.

Either way, it’s sure to be a hit, since her first YA series clearly put her on the map, and writing a two-story series may work in her favor, considering how rundown the YA scope is with trilogies.

 

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Show vs. Book: Ragtime

America at the start of the 20th century was a crazy time that involved a fair amount of ragtime music, vaudeville and racism — lots and lots of racism. All that is portrayed in the story of Ragtime, which follows the collision of an upper class family from New Rochelle, a family of immigrants and a family of lower class African-Americans.

Side stories along the way detail the atrocities and everyday happenings the nation faced at the time, including the murder trial of Evelyn Nesbitt’s husband, the richness and oddities of JP Morgan and Henry Ford and the up-and-coming magic of Harry Houdini.

But the story truly takes off when Mother — the mother of the upper class family — finds an African American baby in her yard and takes it in. Soon, the child’s mother, Sarah, follows and stays in Mother’s home with her family until she can handle taking care of her baby. While staying with the family, Sarah’s ex-lover, Coalhouse, visits everyday in an attempt to win Sarah back and spend time with his son. Coalhouse is a well-known African-American, ragtime pianist whose car is then trashed and vandalized by the city’s firefighters. It’s enough for Coalhouse to completely erupt and damage the lives and relationships around him until his world spirals and crumbles, leaving all other nearby players to pick up the pieces.

There are too many characters and subplots in the book to detail here, but suffice to say the musical does a wonderful job of zeroing in on the most important and exciting parts of the story and bringing them to life. The novel’s beginning is bogged down by the story of Evelyn Nesbitt, which becomes irrelevant by the end. The novel also includes a lot of details about Morgan, Ford and Houdini. While interesting and helpful in setting the tone of the time, they also don’t do much to move the story along. The musical smartly cuts a lot of this and instead focuses on the Coalhouse storyline, which is the most heartbreaking and also the most socially-conscious.

Because of the visual aspect of the show — the sets, the silhouettes — the story’s symbolism also becomes much more apparent than in the book. The musical, for instance, makes a clear distinction between the immigrants, the upper class white people and the lower class black people. The silhouettes, which are only mentioned in the book as an art form, are used throughout the show and acknowledge the show’s theme: that color and race should not be the most important thing about a person.

Ragtime, the novel, was enjoyable, until I saw the show and saw how much more focused it was in its storytelling — and the incredible music didn’t hurt either.

Get Ragtime in paperback for $10.

Or on your Kindle for $11.99.

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